After Four Years, He’s Still The Youngest Artist In San Diego’s Artists’ Alley

Dane Styler writes,

At 12 years old, Ethan Castillo is the youngest artist in Artists’ Alley and this will be his second time behind the table at San Diego Comic Con. Earlier this year at Emerald City Comic Con, Bleeding Cool contributor Dane Styler had the opportunity to sit down with Ethan for a Q&A.

Dane Styler: Ethan, even at 12 years old, this is not your first time behind the table in Artists’ Alley by any stretch. How long have you been an artist?

Ethan Castillo: I’ve always loved drawing. It’s one of those things I’ve always had a passion for. Around age 5 is when I really started getting into it. Really focusing on my art.

DS: Did you have a teacher? Classes at that early age?

EC: Not really. It was more just self-taught. My dad taught me to type, and when I learned to type, I would go online to find out how to draw Spider-Man. Stuff like that. Mostly now it’s getting input from other artists on what I can get better at.

DS: Your first time behind a table in Artists’ Alley was when you were 8 years old. How did that come about?

EC: My dad used to take me to comic conventions because he knew that I love Spider-Man. He’s my favorite. So we would go talk to artists – I mean I didn’t draw age that much yet but I still liked to draw. I was sketching, but I wasn’t getting into it that much.

And then there was one day, at Wonder Con, and I asked my dad when can I have a table. He kind of froze, because he really didn’t know how to get someone a convention table. So we made a few prints, and I started sketching for people.

The first convention I did was Big Wow Comic Fest in San Jose, and I loved it. I immediately felt like this is the thing I want to do.

DS: It has been a few years since I first saw you at a table. What are all the conventions you’ve been to?

EC: The first one I did was Big Wow and I’ve done that every year since I was 8 – so four years now. I did one in L.A. I did Stockton Con. I’ve done a bunch. I’ve gone to San Diego before, it’s crazy, and last year was the first time I had a table. There were a lot of people going by and it was very tiring. It’s the biggest convention I’ve been to and my also one of my favorites.

DS: What has it been like growing up in Artists’ Alley? How has it affected the rest of your life and your family?

EC: Drawing is just one of those things that I imagine that I will always do. I love drawing. I started with one convention and I started branching off from that. Now it’s five conventions every year and I love it. I go back to Big Wow every year and it’s awesome, seeing everyone again. As an artist I’m getting better and people are seeing me progress.

My family goes with me to like 90% of conventions. My mom and sister are home for this one, but they came with us last year. Both my parents and my sister usually come to the conventions, and they love it. They are the best parents ever.

DS: At these conventions has there been an artist you never thought you would meet, but then you did and they gave you advice?

EC: Humberto Ramos. He is my favorite artist, out of everyone. He’s the best. I think I met him at WonderCon and we asked for a sketch, like a commission. We just wanted pencil and ink, but then he started coloring it. He’d seen my art before – this was before, when I didn’t have a table yet, but I had showed him my art, and he loved it. I mean, a lot of it was referenced off of him. And he’s been supporting me ever since.

DS: So he keeps in touch with you?

EC: Yeah! I see him at conventions. He’s really nice.

DS: How has that support and growing up in Artists’ Alley been an advantage to your work? How has that been a unique influence and an education?

EC: Especially at comic conventions, people put up original art. Every time I see that, I say to myself, “oh my gosh, I have to draw something like that.” It really pushes me to keep myself going. Drawing is something I’m 100% sure I want to do when I grow up.

DS: You’ve mentioned before that you’re in middle school and hoping to be valedictorian of your class this year.

EC: I love school. I have a lot of friends that support me with my art too. But like, I’m leaving early today because I have school tomorrow. I keep up all A’s.

DS: What is your favorite class, besides art class?

EC: Actually, I’ve never had an art class in middle school. They have art classes, but I’ve never been able to get into them. Which is crazy – it’s like the one class that I am perfect for and that I should be in. My friends get into those classes, but they take the class for an easy A, and I’m like, guys, I’m the one person that actually wants in.

DS: So what then is your favorite class?

EC: I have this awesome teacher, Mr. Armin. He’s my math teacher and he’s like a super nerd. He has a bunch of Funko Pops in the classroom and he has a bunch of comic books. I love math, it’s one of my favorite classes.

DS: It used to be that being into comic books was not the coolest thing for a kid. Previous generations tended to get picked on. How has it been for you?

EC: I don’t really get picked on. I never really did. Most people know I’m an artist. My friends come up to me and ask me to draw things. They’re really good friends and they’re very supportive. They’re my best friends. They don’t criticize. They love my art.

So at school, I don’t get picked on. Comic books, they’re cool now. Especially with all the movies that are coming out now.

DS: Where do you want to go with comics and art? With school?

EC: One of the reasons I want to keep up good grades is because I want to get into a good college, a good art school where I can learn a lot and grow. My art in general… I want to work for Marvel. Because of Spider-Man of course!

I know I have to work hard. I’m working on my sequentials. I have my dad write up little scripts for comic books, and I practice with those.

DS: To anyone who is reading this, who is a kid like you and wants to be a comic book creator, what would you say to this person?

EC: Find something that you love to do. You have to find that something that you love, and then you get that as a job. It’s not really working. You get paid to do what you love. I love art, and I want to get into comic books because I love drawing.

And come to these conventions. This is where you get critiques. You can talk to other artists, and learn from their knowledge and experience. This is why I love conventions. Artists are always here. It’s great to get to talk to them, buy their art, and get inspired.

About Rich Johnston

Chief writer and founder of Bleeding Cool. Father of two. Comic book clairvoyant. Political cartoonist.

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